Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Siege Winter by Ariana Franklin

"It is a wood-paneled room of sumptuous size - the abbots of Perton have always done themselves well. The present incumbent, however, has stripped it of its tapestries and the gold leaf that once decorated the carved ceiling - they've been sold to benefit poor women of the parish. He's also replaced an elaborate, padded prie-dieu with a plain version that is hard on the knees." Opening Paragraph

Synopsis: A powerful historical novel by the late Ariana Franklin and her daughter Samantha Norman, The Siege Winter is a tour de force mystery and murder, adventure and intrigue, a battle for a crown, told by two courageous young women whose fates are intertwined in twelfth century England’s devastating civil war.

1141. England is engulfed in war as King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda, vie for the crown. In this dangerous world, not even Emma, an eleven-year-old peasant, is safe. A depraved monk obsessed with redheads kidnaps the ginger-haired girl from her village and leaves her for dead. When an archer for hire named Gwyl finds her, she has no memory of her previous life. Unable to abandon her, Gwyl takes the girl with him, dressing her as a boy, giving her a new name—Penda—and teaching her to use a bow. But Gwyn knows that the man who hurt Penda roams free, and that a scrap of evidence she possesses could be very valuable.

Gwyl and Penda make their way to Kenilworth, a small but strategically important fortress that belongs to fifteen-year-old Maud. Newly wedded to a boorish and much older husband after her father’s death, the fierce and determined young chatelaine tempts fate and Stephen’s murderous wrath when she gives shelter to the empress.

Aided by a garrison of mercenaries, including Gwyl and his odd red-headed apprentice, Maud will stave off Stephen’s siege for a long, brutal winter that will bring a host of visitors to Kenilworth—kings, soldiers . . . and a sinister monk with deadly business to finish.

Review by Mirella Patzer

The Siege Winter is a delightful historical fiction novel written by the late Ariana Franklin and completed by Samantha Norman, her daughter. It is set in the 12th century and begins with an abbot who lies on his death bed. Despite his frail health, he is clinging to life to reveal a murderous tale to a scribe before he dies. Through his narrative, we are taken from his death bed to scenes of his past. The voice is compelling, the story engrossing! 

It is the tale of Matilda and her cousin Stephen and their long, drawn out battle for the crown of England. Well researched, gripping, and historically accurate, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel from start to finish. There is plenty to laud within its pages - strong women, battle scenes, treachery, greed, love, and even a touch of humor. Easy to read, it moves along at a good clip. The authors take us on a journey through 12th century England with all its dangers, treachery, murders. A wonderfully told story! Definitely recommended. 

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